Today’s post is by Nate Palmer. Nate is the author of Servanthood as Worship: The Privilege of Life in a Local Church (Cruciform Press, 2010). You can follow him on Twitter at @palmernate.
The 2008 US Presidential Election was the most reported-on election in history. According to the Pew Research Center, the election was the subject of one-third of all media stories (across all mediums) in 2008. Given the amount of fervor and energy for political news in a 24hr news cycle, imagine if the media stopped covering politics entirely once the election was over—not one single copyedit, blog post, commentary, or headline.
Of course, this scenario would never happen – it is absurd. The campaign is not more important than the actual execution of the office. Yet, Christians often treat Jesus Christ in a similar fashion. Christ’s Humiliation is often the focus of our Christian study at the expense of his exaltation. But as we learned last time, the exaltation of Jesus is a vital piece of the Gospel.
Christ himself provides the most compelling justification for the importance of his exaltation and its inclusion in his Gospel message. In response to some of his follower’s expressed dismay of his pending ascent into heaven, Jesus tells them, “it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:7-11)
The exaltation secures work of the Holy Spirit, who produces both the spiritual awakening of the unbeliever as well as the process of spiritual growth in the believer. From his Throne, Christ directs the Holy Spirit in building his church and sustaining his people (Hebrews 9:14). Without the Holy Spirit’s work, our hearts remain hardened and our eyes closed to the truth of Christ. For Jesus, his Gospel message was deficient with His exaltation.
Omitting both the ascension and session from the Gospel is to think of Jesus like an actor, who having performed heroically in the first act, now rests comfortably backstage awaiting his dramatic return at the end. Yet, Christ is not backstage nor is he resting. Instead, he is actively involved in building and sustaining God’s kingdom from the very throne of Heaven. John Calvin states, “Christ by rising again began to show forth his glory and power more fully. Yet he truly inaugurated his Kingdom only at his ascension into Heaven.”1 Christ now sits triumphantly on the heavenly throne, having defeated once and for all the power of sin and death, still working as the old hymn goes “to ever life and plead for me”. [Read more...]